4th Graders: What is a description of Valley from your perspective?
Alan: Valley is a small intimate pre-K through 5th grade school in Madison Valley that takes all kinds of kids and gives them a wonderful education that allows them to go off and do great things later on in life.
4th Graders: What is your favorite sports team?
Alan: That’s an easy one. My favorite sports team is Chelsea Football Club that’s part of the Premiere league in Britain….It’s the REAL football. Since you’re interviewing me, I get to say whatever I want. That IS the best sport. I love soccer and Chelsea is the team I watch most.
4th Graders: What was your first teaching job?
Alan: So right out of college, back in 1980 (that was a long time ago), I was a 5th grade teacher at a school in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a school called Wilmington Friends School and I taught 5th grade social studies for two years.
4th Graders: How old are you?
Alan: I’m 27. Why is that so funny?...No, I’m 55 and that is the truth.
4th Graders: What is your favorite color of the rainbow?
Alan: Blue is a good color.
4th Graders: Is that because it is the color of Chelsea?
Alan: You’re pretty smart.
4th Graders: What is your favorite animated movie?
Alan: Ratatouille….It’s a great movie.
4th Graders: What’s your favorite plain old movie? Casablanca? Chef?
Alan: I don’t know that I have a favorite movie. I don’t go to movies enough. I used to go to a lot of movies and then I had kids and everything changed.
4th Graders: Aw. Kids. Us. And more us-es.
4th Graders: What’s the funniest joke you’ve ever heard?
Alan: You know I think a sense of humor is really important, and I think I have a sense of humor, but it’s not the kind of humor that cracks jokes; it more just responds to situations.
4th Graders: Like sarcasm?
Alan: Well, here’s one. Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9. And the other good math joke: what did 0 say to 8? Nice belt. Those are my jokes….I also kind of like slapstick. It’s just kind of everyday, light, doing goofy things, people stumbling and getting up and doing it again.
4th Graders: Where is your favorite place to travel?
Alan: There are different layers to my answer. One of my favorite places to travel is to Whidbey Island and to go to a place called Ebey’s Landing. That’s for a day trip. But if I’m going to take a long trip, I love going to Kauai. If I’m going to take an even longer trip, I would say New Zealand.
4th Graders: What is your favorite animal?
Alan: I’m very partial to human beings….Is that not the right answer? I like cats.
4th Graders: Who is your favorite athlete?
Alan: It’s a guy named Michael Essien. See, I grew up in Ghana, West Africa. And he is a Ghanaian soccer player, who used to play for Chelsea.
4th Graders: Did you like growing up in Africa?
Alan: I did. I was born in Ghana. And I had a really good time growing up there because the people are great, it’s warm year-round, and you get to go swimming year-round. I went to a really great school. I lived in the capital, which is a city called Accra and I went to an international school. It’s Pre-K through 12th grade. And there were students from 50 different countries and from all around the world. And it was just fascinating. It was a really great place to grow up.
4th Graders: Did you have any pets?
Alan: When I was growing up at different times I had cats, a monkey, a python, a parrot. I think that’s it.
4th Graders: Have you ever traveled to space?
Alan: What’s your definition of space?
4th Graders: Beyond our atmosphere.
And with that the fourth graders covered most of the bases, but here are just a few more details:
Alan took over his head-of-school responsibilities this past July. He most recently comes to us after serving as the assistant head of The Northwest School for the last 12 years. He served as the director of the middle school at Northwest before that. Alan is also an experienced teacher; in addition to teaching at Wilmington Friends School, he has taught 5th grade at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, and middle school at The Northwest School. Alan received his Master of Education degree at Harvard University where he concentrated on teaching, curriculum, and learning environments. He brings to Valley deep expertise and local educational connections as well as a passion for the holistic development of children, the professional development of faculty and the building of community.
Read More From Alan’s Writing on Educational Philosophy
“In their earliest years of life in school, young people need a culture of growth that fulfills several basic needs: a sense of belonging; the freedom to explore and investigate; a sense of joy and fun; the feeling of safety, including physical, emotional, and intellectual safety; and the experience of competence and accomplishment. When schools meet these needs, young people have the confidence to take risks and exhibit the resilience needed for learning.
“Teachers are at the center of good schools. On a daily basis, teachers set the stage for active, engaging learning. Teachers understand that learning can be messy and that it takes twists and turns. In elementary school classrooms, the teacher often serves as navigator, guide, and resource manager, rather than simply the repository of knowledge. The end result is not so much a destination as a process that draws out the student’s natural curiosity and develops a love of learning."